The Amalfi Coast, situated along the southern edge of the Sorrento Peninsula, is undoubtedly one of, if not the most popular coastal drives in the world so don’t trick yourself into a fantasy you saw on in a magazine.
You know the one, a 1967 porsche, top down with a perfect sunset in the background….
That’s not to say it isn’t beautiful, it is very much so. It just means you have to think outside the box a little for an authentic experience. Instead of going to a restaurant, take an Italian cooking class. Choose a campsite over a hotel (and have a Ricotta and Prosciutto Ciabatta for breakfast while the sun comes up).If you have the time, walk the 27 miles.
Or as we did, buy a reel, catch a fish and cook it by the beach.
Amalfi, Positano, and Ravello—its most famous towns—have been a source of inspiration to many writers and composers for centuries from 19th-century composer Richard Wagner and 20th-century playwright Tennessee Williams to Italian tenors Enrico Caruso and Luciano Pavarotti who performed in Positano many times (the latter, not so recently).
Stocking up on supplies in Salerno, this town is widely considered the best starting point for the Amalfi coast road trip and evidently the allies had the same idea in 1943. This busy port town was the site of the beach landing that was
tthe invasion of Italy by allied forces.
From here we followed Autostrada A3 to Vietry sul Mare taking in incredible view after incredible view interspersed with tiny villages known for variety of crafts such as ceramics. The village of Minori is where the ruins of a first century Roman vila lie and before long, Ravello greets you with one of the most spectacular panoramas you’re ever likely to see.
An 11th-century cathedral is the centrepiece of Ravello followed by the famous Villa Rufolo, a 13th century villa that has hosted popes, kings and composers. The views from its gardens are magnificent, along with those from the nearby Villa Cimbrone. Beautiful gardens, tranquil, sleepy streets and sun-drenched vistas are what Ravello does best.
The town of Amalfi is a time-defying beauty. Historic Roman ruins, such as those of a nymphaeum that date back to the rule of Emperor Tiberius giving you an idea of the duration of popularity here. A very casual walk through Amalfi and its maze of charming alleyways is the top of anyones list just as long as you’re passing the Duomo (cathedral) that dates from the 9th century and is absolutely awe inspiring. After 62 quick steps( and quicker down) you will be looking out over Amalfi’s main piazza. The sailing heritage of the Amalfi coast dates back to the 12th century with the Republics of Venice, Genoa, Pisa, the Ragusa (Croatia) and Amalfi where all building fleets of ships both for their own protection and to support extensive trade networks across the Mediterranean.
Positano is further down the way but not before a quick stop at Grotta dello Smeraldo, one of several seaside caves around the world where the water is flooded with a brilliant blue or emerald light due to the access to the outside below the water level. The luminous effect is caused by a refraction of natural sunlight. A few kilometres to the west on the Isle of Capri, there is also the Blue Grotto though this does have a natural opening.
Following the Grotto is the Vallone di Furore, where steep rock walls shelter an enclave of abandoned and partially collapsed fishermen’s houses alongside a tiny harbour and beach. There’s also a deep gorge that should n’t be missed. Just around the corner almost, are the villages of Praiano and Positano.
Amazingly, Praiano has managed to maintain it’s small town authenticity despite becoming one of Italy’s main tourist towns, though the cost of many of the hotels may have something to do with it. Once upon a time, Praiano along with Positano were relatively poor fishing towns, almost immediately finding fame after the publishing of John Steinbeck’s essay for Harpers Bazaar in 1953 in which he writes ‘It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone’.
The tiny beach of Cala della Gavitella catches the sun from dawn until dusk and can be reached from the center of the town via a pathway interspersed with short flights of steps. Additionally, The beach of Marina di Praia beach is a natural fjord, located between Praiano and Conca dei Marini, where the water is deep and blue. In ancient times, Marina di Praia was the village hub where people built boats, fishing nets and prepared cured fish.
Only 10km more is Positano. Long, a favourite with all kinds of artists, Positano translates as ‘put it there’.
300m long, Spiaggia Grandeis the beach and almost the social heart of Positano. One of the largest on the Amalfi Coast, and certainly the most glamorous too with many a celebrity spotted here during the summer. Positano’s “sea taxi service” operates a
fleet of small boats transporting visitors to the beautiful little bays, such as Remmese, Clavel and Cavone, which can only be accessed
from the sea.
Nearing the end of our Amalfi sojurn, we arrive at the quintessential southern Italian town of Sorrento. The idyllic location overlooking the Bay of Naples offers spellbinding views of the Sorrentine peninsula, Mount Vesuvius and the Isle of Capri would be considered the alternative gateway to the Amalfi Coast where the dramatic sea cliffs, natural beauty, and local color have inspired many to sing the city’s praises, contributing to the world’s cultural DNA through the patronage of creative luminaries such as M.C Escher, John Steinbeck, Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee.